Just weeks away from the 2015 NFL Draft, all of the focus is on the next crop of players entering the professional football ranks. But this is a very important offseason for the youngsters who just completed their first year of league service -- particularly the ones who didn't play as well as anticipated. Yes, while a number of rookies -- see: Odell Beckham Jr., Aaron Donald, Zack Martin and C.J. Mosley -- enjoyed dynamic debuts, there were others who left something to be desired.
With that in mind, which underwhelming player from the 2014 draft class do you see breaking through in Year 2?
Bortles was hampered by drops and an absolutely dreadful offensive line more than any rookie quarterback in 2014. His decision-making quietly improved as the season wore on and he is very athletic. Yes, I am projecting here. He needs to be more accurate. But his biggest problems (getting fooled by defenses, spotty decision-making) should be solved with experience. He can be a solid starter, which would be a massive jump after his unpleasant introduction to the league.
Thus, the Lions should expect to see a more comfortable Ebron snag 50-plus catches and emerge as a red-zone threat, with opponents intent on taking away Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate. If Ebron puts in the work during the offseason to develop a few moves to shake free from man coverage, he could live up to the lofty expectations that preceded his arrival as a highly touted draft pick.
I also think wide receiver Davante Adams, who was a second-round pick last May, will begin to blossom. He had a big day against Dallas in the playoffs, but that performance came after a mediocre regular season. He has the skill set necessary to be a solid No. 2 receiver, and he'll begin to show that on a consistent basis this fall.
Another player I expect to significantly improve is Lions TE Eric Ebron, who managed just 25 catches and one touchdown in 2014. This is coordinator Joe Lombardi's second year running the offense in Detroit, something that should benefit everyone on the unit -- but particularly Ebron. Generally speaking, tight ends make the biggest jump during Year 2 in the NFL. Most TEs don't receive a lot of direct tutelage in college because of the smaller coaching staffs at that level, as compared to the NFL.
Also, don't be surprised if Demarcus Lawrence has a big year for the Cowboys, playing opposite the recently signed Greg Hardy.
General manager Martin Mayhew noted in February that Ebron's play trended upward over the latter part of last season, and the tight end will look to carry that momentum -- along with a lot more footballs -- in 2015.